As part of her grassblades research and development project, dance and video artist Lisa May Thomas and her company of dancers will be in residence at Arnolfini from 2nd-9th March 2013 with Composer and Sound Designer Andy Pink.
In week one, at the stunning Dartington Hall in Devon, I started with T.S.Eliot’s The Wasteland. I worked with conveying it’s rich, textured worlds journeying me through multi-layed landscapes with colourful characters, bizarre scenarios taking in life, death and all the things in between. The team (see below) looked at the words, their content and meaning to us. We looked at the poetic structures underlying the words and we moved those thoughts into the worlds of sound and movement. We applied structures in poetry to structures of sound and movement using accent to define weak and strong, and we worked with the words and phrases to define characters and scenarios. With them came an exploration into physical states of being and of touch and how we made physical contact with one another.
It all got very complicated, and so I decided to work out what it was that was driving the work, to find a simple theme relating to The Wasteland and what had originally driven and inspired me to proceed with this project. My thinking led me to my own life and experiences of recent days and years, particularly since having children and how this has made me simultaneously connect and disconnect to the world around me. I have a sense of feeling more vulnerable yet strong, protective yet free, isolated yet desperate to connect, which for me are all things that exist in Eliot’s Wasteland.
At the ICIA Theatre, Bath in early January this year we had our second week to focus on these themes of touch, what accent is, and how accent is defined. Alongside this I was working with my new GoPro camera to explore the camera eye in the space.
We have been working with the simplest of things, being ‘touch’, both the concept and physicality of. We brainstormed all the words that came into our heads to describe the physical actions of ‘touch’ and the spaces in which this ‘touch’ would or could happen. It addressed for us the notion of public and private spaces and what physicality we offer in these spaces … the private spaces where touch happens between us and our partners, our children, our friends, our family around the dinner table, in bed … and then the public spaces. What kinds of touch do we offer out to the world in the public domain?
These words relating to touch came up for us:
We have decided to call them ‘touch tones’. This expression connects me to the world of sounds which brings me to my work with Andy Pink, a wonderful Bristol-based collaborator, composer and sound designer who has been working with me on this project. With him we have cross-referenced our ideas of touch tones into sound, sounds that are touching, sounds that do not touch, pitches that come close to touching but not quite.
We are also exploring the notion of ‘accent’, taken from music and adopted into the world we are creating. We asked questions like ‘What is accent? What makes accent? In music, in poetry, in dance, in life…’. We discussed and played with this idea and came up with the sense that accent is something which marks out something from the rest, something which changes or contrasts a situation. We also talked over the ways in which accents are defined. We looked to poetry, in particular referencing TS Eliot’s Wasteland. The way accent happens in poetry is through extending the length of words or through repetition. We brainstormed other ways of accenting but came back to these two forms which we then transferred across to set movement material. We then de-accented and re-accented this material according to traditional poetic structures and this idea of long and repetition to mark accent. When we watched it back, the language of the body had a strange effect, almost as if it was ‘bending time’, which was very interesting to watch.
Another theme that is present in this work that I have not yet mentioned is the concept of ‘outside in’. Alongside our experiments with touch and accent, we are delving into movement scores inspired by New Zealand choreographer Michael Parmenter of TACTICS and Piloting. The idea is that any movement comes from an external source (whereas perhaps much movement and dance is derived from an internal place). We played with the notion that the dancers were not allowed to move themselves, they could only move each other or be moved by each other. We developed the scores and added our own TACTICS. I will talk more about this in my next blog. To read about this aspect of Parmenter’s work in more detail, please go to: http://www.twu.edu/downloads/dance/Parmenter_Life_Between_Us_TEXT_master.pdf
There is alot more to talk about – I have just scratched the surface. Watch this space for further blog posts about the project in the lead up to and after our week at Arnolfini 2 – 9 March 2013.
We are planning to have an open studio session on Friday 8 March from 2-5pm in the auditorium where you can enter into our processes and our research. This is a free event and we welcome you to join us and share your thoughts and questions so that this research project may develop and move into the creation and production of new work.
If you would like to comment or for any further information on the project, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or my Producer Ruth Holdsworth (email@example.com). We would love to hear from you.
Lisa May Thomas – director
Andy Pink – composer/sound design
Isabelle Cressy, Lucy Haighton, Robert Mennear, Anne-Gaelle Thiriot, Niall Tyzack-Carlin, Beth Powlesland, Tilly Webber – dancers
Lois Taylor – project mentor
Vicci Riley, Laila Diallo – studio support